Throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Lester Koenig's artist-friendly Los Angeles-based audiophile jazz label documented career-defining performances by some of modern jazz's most influential and accomplished improvisers, including Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Harold Land and Benny Golson. No musician is more closely identified with Contemporary than Pepper, whose cool tone and simmering lyricism made him one of the very few mid-century alto saxophonists to forge a path independent of bebop patriarch Charlie Parker's pervasive influence.
Produced by Koenig and recorded in 1959, Art Pepper +Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics is one of the saxophonist's masterpieces. Featuring brilliant arrangements by Marty Paich, the album elaborates on the lush but lithe sound introduced by the epochal Birth of the Cool sessions, which Miles Davis started to record almost exactly a decade earlier (like Birth, +Eleven kick offs with Denzil Best's "Move"). Surrounded by the cream of the LA scene, including fellow saxophone masters Herb Geller, Bill Perkins and Med Flory, Pepper brings all his scorching lyricism to a program of modern jazz standards by Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan and Sonny Rollins.